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Author Topic: "Bloody"
Yennis
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Does anyone know about the orgins of the British swear word "bloody"? I've been told it's the British equivant of the f-word in severity. Someone told me that it is swearing on the blood of Christ when Christ was on the cross; another person said the origin is unknown. Also, any idea why it is a swear word in England yet doesn't bother Americans?
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Damian
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Etymology Online gives this:

quote:
bloody
O.E. blodig, adj. from blod (see blood). It has been a British intens. swear word since at least 1676. Weekley relates it to the purely intensive use of the cognate Du. bloed, Ger. blut). But perhaps connected with bloods in the slang sense of "rowdy young aristocrats" (see blood) via expressions such as bloody drunk "as drunk as a blood." Partridge reports that it was "respectable" before c.1750, and it was used by Fielding and Swift, but heavily tabooed c.1750-c.1920, perhaps from imagined association with menstruation; Johnson calls it "very vulgar," and OED first edition writes of it, "now constantly in the mouths of the lowest classes, but by respectable people considered 'a horrid word', on par with obscene or profane language." Shaw shocked theatergoers when he put it in the mouth of Eliza Doolittle in "Pygmalion" (1914), and for a time the word was known euphemistically as "the Shavian adjective." It was avoided in print as late as 1936. Bloody Mary, the drink, is from 1956, named for Mary Tudor, queen of England 1553-58, who earned her epithet for vigorous prosecution of Protestants. The drink earned its, apparently, simply for being red from tomato juice. Bloody Sunday, Jan. 30, 1972, when 13 civilians were killed by British troops at protest in Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

"Bloody" is a minor swear word in Australia these days. It is used mainly as an adjective, describing "very" (ie. it's bloody hot today).

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Tenere
The Red and the Green Stamps


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From what I've experienced, bloody seems to be more on par with the swear word "damn" than with the f-word.
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Richard W
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quote:
Originally posted by Yennis:
I've been told it's the British equivant of the f-word in severity.

It used to be, perhaps, but it certainly hasn't been for a long time. There was a scandal in 1914 when Shaw's play Pygmalion contained the line "Not bloody likely" (here's the script of Act III for context), but these days, as Tenere said, it's pretty mild.

That's probably where the "equivalent of 'fucking'" comes from, because the idea that that line would cause a scandal is pretty silly these days, and the only way to imagine the impact is to substitute a "worse" swear-word. Even in 1914 I suspect there'd have been a far bigger scandal if Eliza Doolittle had said "Not fucking likely, I am going in a taxi". (On the other hand, respectable people would probably have pretended not to know what the word meant...) I doubt the words were ever equivalent in rudeness at the same time, but swearing in general is less frowned upon now. These days she'd probably have to call the taxi a cunt, too, before anybody would blink.

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Dozingquinn
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My headmaster at school told us all that "Bloody" had its roots in blasphemy. Apparently it was an abbreviated word for "By Our Lady" (Mary)

So saying "bloody" was just as bad as shouting the Lords name in vain.

Mind you I can't confirm this with anything on Google.

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But "Oh, God" is considered a mild exclamation, certainly milder than "bloody". It's funny how a derivative word (whether it comes from the concept of Jesus' blood, or from a contraction of "by our lady") has more power than the name of the Big Yin himself...

If "bloody" does come from "by our lady", it seems strange that it hasn't gone the way of "lumme", "zounds" and "blimey" and become comical rather than offensive.

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RangerDog
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One of my soccer teams (U12 boys) named themselves "The Bloody Cleats". Caused quite a stir with the league.

RangerDog

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TrishDaDish
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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Going by Shakespeareian swearing, Hamlet says "'Sblood, do you think I am easier to be played on than a pipe?" ("'Sblood" meaning "By God's blood".)

Makes me think of the Lent episode of Vicar of Dibley where they ask Owen not to swear and he defends that "bloody" isn't a swear. Mostly by saying, "No it bloody isn't!"

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First Amongst Daves
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I always assumed it was a derivation of "blood oath" ---> "bloody oath", an increasingly infrequent idiom in Australia which is the equivalent of the American "damn straight".

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Jay Tea
The "Was on Sale" Song


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Etymology online.

quote:
bloody
O.E. blodig, adj. from blod (see blood). It has been a British intens. swear word since at least 1676. Weekley relates it to the purely intensive use of the cognate Du. bloed, Ger. blut). But perhaps connected with bloods in the slang sense of "rowdy young aristocrats" (see blood) via expressions such as bloody drunk "as drunk as a blood." Partridge reports that it was "respectable" before c.1750, and it was used by Fielding and Swift, but heavily tabooed c.1750-c.1920, perhaps from imagined association with menstruation; Johnson calls it "very vulgar," and OED first edition writes of it, "now constantly in the mouths of the lowest classes, but by respectable people considered 'a horrid word', on par with obscene or profane language." Shaw shocked theatergoers when he put it in the mouth of Eliza Doolittle in "Pygmalion" (1914), and for a time the word was known euphemistically as "the Shavian adjective." It was avoided in print as late as 1936



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Joe Bentley
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Bill Bryson's spectacular book on the history of the English language The Mother Tongue: The English Language and How it Got That Way seems to back up the offical etomology.

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TrishDaDish
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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Not to be a pain in the butt, Jay Tea, but Damian quote the same thing you did the second post in.

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abigsmurf
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On the topic of the UK equilivant of Fucking. I would say that Tosser or Wanker are the closest (although they don't mean the same as the F word)
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Shadowduck
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...obscenity space in case there's anyone out there who, for reasons I fail to comprehend, finds some words offensive or shocking... ...I feel words are only offensive if used offensively but maybe you see it differently... ...don't read further if so...

I would have thought the UK equivalent of fucking was... well... fucking.

ETA: Obscenity space for any BSKs in active topics.

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PeterK
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I tend to agree with First Among Daves explanation that it was short for "Blood(y) oath", which would explain how seriously it was viewed. A blood oath is I believe either an oath on your ancestors, or calling on people to cut your throat if they ever find that what you are saying is a lie.
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PeterK
The First USA Noel


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Interestingly, only the metaphorical use is considered rude. "bloody" in the literal sense of "covered with blood" is not seen as a swear word, and is even used in the Bible.

As Australian children used to chant when rebuked for saying it:

"Bloody's in the Bible,
Bloody's in the Book.
If you don't believe me,
Have a bloody look!"

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Shadowduck
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According to The Word Detective the origin's unknown (as is so often the case). Interestingly, he also seems to think the word is a 'heavy-duty expletive' - to which I can only reply 'bollocks'. [Wink]

quote:
The inexplicable expletive.

Dear Word Detective: I am wondering about the English expletive "bloody." I understand it's derived from "By Our Lady" Is this true? -- Mizoe, via the Internet.

Almost certainly not. No one knows for sure where "bloody" came from, and although many theories have been proposed over the past few hundred years, no solid evidence has ever emerged to settle the question. That mystery about the origin of the word, however, doesn't stop the story of "bloody" from being one of the stranger word tales around.

To Americans, "bloody" means next to nothing -- it's simply a word we hear in British movies and vaguely recognize as some sort of intensifier ("It's this bloody heat that's driving the men mad, Colonel."). To a Briton, however, "bloody" is a heavy-duty expletive, one that even in these liberal times could probably not be used in polite society without shocking at least a few of those present. There's really no equivalent to "bloody" in American English, but if there were I'd probably not be able to print it in this column. Even today, British newspapers usually will only print "bloody" if it is contained safely within a direct quotation. Among the working class of Britain, however, "bloody" is as popular as our familiar four-letter expletives are on American loading docks (or in certain Oval Offices). "Bloody" is even more popular Down Under, where it is known as "The Great Australian Adjective."

What is truly odd about upper-class Britons' "bloody" squeamishness is that until about 1750, "bloody" was considered a acceptable if somewhat unpleasant word, often used as an intensifier in everyday conversation. The emergence of violent gangs of aristocratic thugs known as "bloods" (probably from "blood thirsty") in the 18th century may have been the impetus for the public banishment of "bloody" from polite speech, but in any case the exile lasted for more than 200 years and is only now easing. All of which proves that the history of words is every bit as irrational as the people who use them.



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Jay Tea
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quote:
Originally posted by TrishDaDish:
Not to be a pain in the butt, Jay Tea, but Damian quote the same thing you did the second post in.

Yup, and it was so good I thought it ought to be posted up, er, again. >ahem<

[dunce]

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Pogue Ma-humbug
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quote:
Originally posted by Damian:
Etymology Online gives this:

quote:
Bloody Sunday, Jan. 30, 1972, when 13 civilians were killed by British troops at protest in Londonderry, Northern Ireland.


Isn't the "bloody" here used as an adjective to describe the fact that 13 died from shootings and it was a day of bleeding, as opposed to an epithet?

Pogue

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Joostik
The First USA Noel


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Re. the 1972 Derry "Bloody Sunday": that certainly wasn't the first use of the expression. Even before the the the 1913 and 1920 Dublin "Bloody Sundays" there were the 1887 London, 1905 st.Petersburg, and 1939 Bromberg Bloody Sundays, to name but some of the more notorious:

Bloody Sunday

There have been "Bloody Mondays" too, but somehow they sound less dramatic.

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Andrew of Ware, England
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'Bloody' may not be as bad a swear word as it used to be, but I would still not use it in polite (or indeed inpolite) conversation.

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Shadowduck
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quote:
Originally posted by Andrew of Ware, England:
'Bloody' may not be as bad a swear word as it used to be, but I would still not use it in polite (or indeed inpolite) conversation.

I wouldn't use it to my mother, I'll grant you, but that goes for any even vaguely offensive word. I really don't think it's 'the British equivant of the f-word', as stated in the OP, much more on the level of 'damn' as Tenere suggested.

Maybe I'm just not upper-class enough! [Razz]

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Jay Tea
The "Was on Sale" Song


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I've used the term 'bloody' when addressing royalty, in certain contexts in is a harmless part of our language 'bloody awful' 'bloody minded' 'bloody great beast!' - a lot lies in emphasis as well as context - a heavy accent on 'bloody' used in a phrase may well be considered less than polite in some circumstances, but as an adverbial it has lost most of it's power to foreground and is only mildly taboo at worst, for example when used out of a humourous context - which is more impactful ' Take you hands off me' or 'Take your bloody hands off me'.

It is possible to put full empahasis onto the term and let it ring with it's impact of old, but mostly it's use is overlooked, a general dialectal term.

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Phaedra
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quote:
Originally posted by Shadowduck:
Maybe I'm just not upper-class enough! [Razz]

When I was a child the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester stayed in our house in Somalia when they were on their Middle Eastern tour. Much of somalia is basically windswept stoney desert and as the Duchess stepped off the plane she did a Maralyn Munro as the wind whipped up her white pleated skirt. After she teetered accross the rocky compound in high heels to our house my mother asked me to show her to the makeshift bathroom. Just before she closed the door she sighed loudly and said "why didn't anyone tell me what a bloody Godforsaken place this is." I remember running through the house yelling to my mother "The Duchess swore, the Duchess swore. She really did. She said.." I was packed off to my room before I could finish.

So Shadowduck I reckon it's a term that's been in general use in the upper classes for decades.

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Shadowduck
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quote:
Originally posted by Phaedra:
quote:
Originally posted by Shadowduck:
Maybe I'm just not upper-class enough! [Razz]

When I was a child the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester stayed in our house in Somalia when they were on their Middle Eastern tour. Much of somalia is basically windswept stoney desert and as the Duchess stepped off the plane she did a Maralyn Munro as the wind whipped up her white pleated skirt. After she teetered accross the rocky compound in high heels to our house my mother asked me to show her to the makeshift bathroom. Just before she closed the door she sighed loudly and said "why didn't anyone tell me what a bloody Godforsaken place this is." I remember running through the house yelling to my mother "The Duchess swore, the Duchess swore. She really did. She said.." I was packed off to my room before I could finish.

So Shadowduck I reckon it's a term that's been in general use in the upper classes for decades.

As you probably realised, I was mocking the etymology online / OED...
quote:
"now constantly in the mouths of the lowest classes, but by respectable people considered 'a horrid word', on par with obscene or profane language."
Nice anecdote, by the way! [Smile]

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Phaedra
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Aye... I did realise you were taking a pop Shadowduck [Wink]
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Lotta Palaver
Jingle Bell Hock


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quote:
Originally posted by PeterK:

"Bloody's in the Bible,
Bloody's in the Book.
If you don't believe me,
Have a bloody look!"

So is "damn", "hell" and even "piss[eth]" in the KJV. [Eek!]

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PeterK
The First USA Noel


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quote:
Originally posted by belaglik:
quote:
Originally posted by PeterK:

"Bloody's in the Bible,
Bloody's in the Book.
If you don't believe me,
Have a bloody look!" [/qb]

So is "damn", "hell" and even "piss[eth]" in the KJV. [Eek!]
Reminds me of the verse I used to quote to my kids "I wish you were either hot or cold, but as you are lukewarm I will vomit you out of my mouth." They wouldn't believe that Jesus would have used a "not nice" word like "vomit". So they looked it up in various Bibles and discovered that they all said "vomit" except the KJV which says "spew".
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Cold DecEmbra Brings The Sleet
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


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At school we used to like the bit in The Scottish Play where the "bloody child" appears.

As well as "bloody" there is of course the variant "bleeding". I remember reading somewhere that "bleeding" tends to be more working-class usage, so maybe Eliza Doolittle should more correctly have said "Not bleedin' likely"?

"Bleeding" just works better in some circumstances anyway, particularly in the phrase "answering questions on the bleeding obvious".

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PeterK
The First USA Noel


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In Australia "bleeding" is a euphemism for bloody, and much more acceptable in "polite" circles. Another euphemism is "plurry".
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Revolution 9
The Red and the Green Stamps


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I remembered seeing a bit about common working class London swearwords and slang of the time in Orwell's "Down and Out in Paris and London" (one of his earlier works, not one of his best but certainly one of my favourites.), which had a reference to the word "bloody", so I've just spent ages rummaging through my cupboard looking for my Orwell books (I've got all of them besides "Burmese Days", which I will have as soon as I track it down, which is bloody sad really! Other than the fact that his theories as to why we swear, I found his explanation of the word "bloody" to be pretty interesting. I found it in the end near the end, amongst the London Chapters of the book (for the most part it's an account of Orwell's time as a down and out, (surprisingly enough!), first in the slums of late 1920s Paris, then as a wandering tramp in London shortly afterwards.) I was going to quote it, but it's a bit long, and that's kind of copyright fraud anyway, so I'll just briefly outline what he said:

Basically, he said that at the time, bloody was a word that had originated with the working classes, and was formerly a quite offensive word. However, by this time it was in steady decline, and although novelists often potrayed the proletariat using "bloody", it was scarecely used by a native-born Englishman, but was often used by Scotsmen living in London in his experience. He then went on to say that, oddly enough, "bloody" had now been adopted by the middle classes, such was its inoffensiveness that it was now a polite swearword, if you know what I mean.

Oddly enough, he then went on to say that the latest working class adjective was "fucking", and that it had only recently began to be tacked on to everything. So according to Orwell, "bloody" had been tacked onto everything maybe twenty years earlier, in the 1900s, but was now not used a lot, whearas "fucking" was a new word to the UK, and was at that point common among the working classes but not used in polite society. He was wrong about one thing though. He believed that, like "bloody", people would become de-sensitised to "fucking", and that it would become so inoffensive that it would be used at dinner parties etc by the well off and cultured. Although it's no longer the most offensive word you could say, it certainly hasn't become a polite word that can be used in cultured company, i.e. you'll still be scorned at if you turn up at a dinner party and ask someone "and how are you fucking doing?!" [lol]

Bearing in mind that the book was written in the late 20s (although not published until the Gollancz edition of 1933 because at the time he wasn't an established author with a reputation, and had trouble getting a publisher to accept him.), it certainly supports what a number of you were saying about "bloody" being in existance, but not the edgiest thing you could say, in cinemas in 1914 for example, it must surely have been in decline as Orwell said for the director to have decided it wasn't sufficiently offensive to hamper his film, and certainly it must have been not such a terrible word for the film to get to cinemas without a public outcry or some sort of censorship.

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magpie
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I have to wonder why no one ever made the connection between Old English "blod" and German "bloed" (forgive the lack of umlauts). Bloed means silly or stupid. Just makes more sense to me, but of course I don't actually have the history to back that up.
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Ulkomaalainen
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According to my etymologic "Duden" (kind of the German OED) "blöd" didn't get today's meaning of "stupid" until comparatively recently (18th century) and meant "shy", "sick" or "weak" before that. Which I think debunks this theory. Plus, I see no reason at all not to consider "bloody" as deriving from "blood" etymologically, as there's enough probable ways how this change of meaning may originate.

Ulko "some litres of blood inside" maalainen

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Movie characters never make typing mistakes.

Posts: 586 | From: Hamburg, Germany | Registered: Sep 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Seraphina
Deck the Malls


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quote:
Originally posted by Phaedra:
quote:
Originally posted by Shadowduck:
Maybe I'm just not upper-class enough! [Razz]

When I was a child the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester stayed in our house in Somalia when they were on their Middle Eastern tour. Much of somalia is basically windswept stoney desert and as the Duchess stepped off the plane she did a Maralyn Munro as the wind whipped up her white pleated skirt. After she teetered accross the rocky compound in high heels to our house my mother asked me to show her to the makeshift bathroom. Just before she closed the door she sighed loudly and said "why didn't anyone tell me what a bloody Godforsaken place this is." I remember running through the house yelling to my mother "The Duchess swore, the Duchess swore. She really did. She said.." I was packed off to my room before I could finish.

So Shadowduck I reckon it's a term that's been in general use in the upper classes for decades.

I am sure that is the case, but the upper classes know when they can get away with it (in a loo in Somalia), and in any case say it in appropriately posh accent. [Big Grin] In which case it is considered just bit risque.
Posts: 214 | From: Melbourne, Australia | Registered: Oct 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Dactingyl
Anchovy of a 1000 Days


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Just stumbled on this thread and realise that there seem to be a lot of English people who are better bred than I!

I wouldn't even class bloody as a mild profanity, while I wouldn't necessarily use it in a business meeting I'd have no hesitations about announcing "I've printed the wrong bloody documents' at work and don't think anyone would bat an eyelid.

Bloody is actually a work I normally substitute for a swear work to clean up my language and rather than shouting "Oh Shit" when I staple my hand I just say "Bloody bloody!"

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Dactingyl is meant to sound a bit like Christingle.

It's not very good but I couldn't think of anything else.

Sorry.

Posts: 257 | From: Hants, UK | Registered: Dec 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
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